Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sahara Desert. It was as amazing as it sounds.

(This is from back in February when my parents visited...)
After our weekend in Fez, we returned to Casablanca for a day. Good family friends, Jack and MaryAnn Jackson, arrived Monday afternoon to accompany us on our next journey. We spent the afternoon/evening walking around Casablanca, eventually heading to the Grand Mosque down by the ocean. While tours were done for the day, they did get to look inside and we were able to be there for one of the 'Call to Prayer' times. It's a neat experience to hear the Arabic words pipe through the speakers while actually AT the mosque.
The next day, we took a train to Meknes where we would meet our driver/guide Hicham and start our journey south. Our destination was Merzouga, which is on the eastern edge of Morocco and part of the Western Sahara Desert. It took us all day to drive down there, but we saw some amazing scenery along the way, driving through the Mid-Atlas Mountains, and then the High Atlas Mountains as well. We even saw some monkeys along the way.

When we finally reached the area of Merzouga, it was dark. We were met on the road by someone from our 'hotel' who guided us in to where we were staying. We were starving, as we had not really eaten much that day. We were told to go into the dining hall area for tea. We thought this would lead to food, as they had asked us what we wanted to eat. In retrospect, I think we were supposed to drink the tea, retire to our rooms, then come back to eat. But, we just sat there and eventually the food came. It was delicious, Moroccan cuisine and it was followed by 'entertainment'. Some of the younger gentlemen who worked here played the drums and some traditional Berber style of music. They even got us all up dancing at one point.
We stayed at a place called the 'Hotel Nomad Palace'. It was really cool...just a building out in the middle of seemingly nowhere. Rooms were very nice. The walls of this place were kind of a mix of what looked to be clay and straw.

My room
The next day, we were taken to few little 'villages' around where we were staying. We watched and listened to the 'Pigeons du Sable' play some gnaoua music and dance along with it. Of course, Moroccan mint tea accompanied this as well. It is a staple here like offering water is in the States. After this, we were taken into the village of Merzouga. Here, we got to walk around the oasis part of the village. This was pretty cool, as they told us about how they share the water supply within the villager's green space. Each space gets water for a certain amount of time in order for them to grow their crop.
After more purchases from the one shop in town, we went back to our Nomad Palace and had a bit of time to relax before lunch. This place had one of the coolest pools ever, because it was shaped in the hand of Fatima. This is a very popular Moroccan symbol; an amulet of sorts thought to ward off the evil eye. Or, in other words, keep evil spirits away. Anyway, this was the pool...

Eventually, we would make our way out into the desert...

We mounted our crew of camels around 4:30 in order to be out in the middle of the Saharan dunes a bit before sunset.

Our camel caravan...Dad, MaryAnn, Me, Mom, & Jack

It was timed out perfectly, as we arrived at our camp about an hour or so before sunset. We climbed a smaller dune to watch the sunset. Jack and I then climbed a higher dune to watch the sunset a second time. :) 

Our caravan guides were a couple of pretty young guys. They were from 'the school of life' as Moroccans like to say. They spoke very good English, all of which was learned through conversation, as they most definitely have never had any formal schooling in terms of English. They made our journey fun...


  1. In your pictures at the top, I'm having trouble figuring out which one is the monkey. It's a real head-scratcher.

    Awesome pictures! I so wish that Jill and I had been able to join mom, dad, you, and your parents! (I'd say Micah too, but mom and dad probably let you know that he hates leaving Iowa, let alone the US).
    --Julie (Jackson) Schnebbe

  2. Haha. Thanks for the note Julie. Loved having your parents along, but they also told us how jealous you were of their trip. Next time. :)

  3. Jodee, my name is Cheryl and I work at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. I am interested in using one of your photos in a new exhibit at the Zoo and would like to communicate with you regarding the specific image I'd like to use and obtaining your permission for its use. Can you please email me at braunsteinc(at) and we can go over what I would need in terms of your permission? Thanks,